SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Hawaii is picture-perfect nearly every day of the year, but summer is perhaps the best time to take advantage of the many great outdoor activities living in an island state provides.

"Hawaii is probably one of the best places to be year-round," said Shelly Leslie, chief, Outdoor Recreation Center; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

"The environment, the weather, the people, the food … everything in Hawaii pulls together to enjoying yourself outdoors, and Outdoor Rec exists to show people and teach people how to have fun safely in Hawaii's outdoors," Leslie added.

The center, located here, offers a wide assortment of programs and instruction to all eligible DFMWR guests who love exploring the great outdoors, including tutorials and tours in surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, biking, hiking, fishing, snorkeling, Hawaiian canoe paddling, kayaking, scuba diving and paintball, just to name a few.

"We also have a brand new bouldering program that we started last month," said Leslie. "Our goal, eventually, is to offer outdoor bouldering at Waimea Bay; that's the next step."

Since moving into its new building on Ulrich Way in 2012, Outdoor Rec has been able to expand its lineup of outdoor offerings, starting with its wildly popular Adventure PT (physical training) program.

"Our Adventure PT has really taken off this past year," said Leslie. "People keep coming in the door, fighting for days. That is wonderful, because you'd be amazed how much you get on an Adventure PT program."

The program was created with help from a sergeant who approached Leslie one day lamenting that he was tired of having his Soldiers continually run laps around the airfield for PT, and would much rather kayak up at the North Shore.

"It's a well-rounded approach to PT and safety, because Soldiers don't want to just listen to a safety brief, they want to live it! It's better to live it!" Leslie said.

Adventure PT costs $6 per Soldier and is held every Monday-Friday, during PT hours, by appointment only.

"We can arrange the activity, or it can be that you want to try something different to sweat," Leslie said. "The biggest goal of Outdoor Rec is that, if you can dream it, we will try and achieve it."

In addition, Outdoor Recreation provides rentals on the necessities for camping (think tents, lanterns, portable stoves and coolers) and outdoor sports, as well as ever-popular party essentials like inflatable bouncers, canopies, tables, chairs, barbecue grills, popcorn and shave ice machines, and even a dunk tank!

The center also has begun growing tropical fruits and flowers at the
facility for guests to sample.

"We have papaya, ginger, guava, starfruit, passion fruit, lychee and avocado. Eventually, Soldiers can go on a self-tour of our backyard," Leslie said, noting that the center also offers full-service pet kennels.

But, perhaps the most important thing Outdoor Recreation gives Soldiers and families is the option to get out of the "barracks bubble" and explore paradise in a safe, no-pressure environment.

"Outdoor Rec is really about stretching and flexing your comfort zone, safely, but Outdoor Rec also is a lot of fun," Leslie said. "We are the subject matter experts when it comes to the outdoors. We do it professionally, and we live it personally. Whether you are a Soldier, family member, retiree or veteran, it doesn't matter. When you come in, you are our valued guest, and we want you to have fun."

Leslie, who has been with Outdoor Rec since 2008, has many more goals for the program in the pipeline, to include operating a shooting/archery range, offering beachside yurts, building a dog park on post, paddling around the island, hosting a "movie in the park" night and even conducting hiking and biking tours of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.

"We're getting ready to start 'Women in the Wild' all-women programs and educational trips," Leslie added. "There's a lot, and it'll be long after I retire, but eventually, one day, we're going to do it all."

"People need to get outside and see the sun," Leslie continued. "No matter how bad your day is, if you go outside, you feel better.

"It's about having a better life, and getting outdoors just makes for a better life," she said. "And so, for all of these young families looking to get out and about, to get out of their comfort zone, I'd hope they come and see us. We make positive changes in people's lives."

-- Summer Activities

The Outdoor Recreation Center keeps the fun going all summer long, this month and next, with the following programs:

•July 25, 5:30-7 p.m., Bouldering -- $15;

•July 26, 9-11:30 a.m., Bouldering Open House -- Learn about the center's new bouldering program, meet the instructor and test your climbing skills, with the chance to win prizes;

•Aug. 6, 9:30-11 a.m., EDGE/Home School Hiking -- Hike Dillingham Trail; available to youth age 6-18 years, free;

•Aug. 7, 1:30-3 p.m., Bouldering -- $15;

•Aug. 8, 5:30-7 p.m., Bouldering -- $15;

•Aug. 9, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Intro to Surf Kayaking I -- $59;

•Aug. 16, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Intro to Surfing -- $59;

•Aug. 16, 8-10 a.m., Bubblemaker -- $39;

•Aug. 20, 9:30-11 a.m., EDGE/Home School Hiking -- Hike Pupukea Trail; available to youth age 6-18 years, free;

•Aug. 21, 1:30-3 p.m.,
Bouldering -- $15; and

•Aug. 22, 5:30-7 p.m., Bouldering -- $15.

In addition, Outdoor Rec offers open-water dive certification courses, every other week, as well as classes in rescue/emergency first response and scuba certification.

The center, located at 435 Ulrich Way, Bldg. 2110, Schofield Barracks, is open between 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. every Tuesday-Saturday.

For more information and a full list of upcoming activities, call (808) 655-0143, or visit the Outdoor Recreation link.

-- Safety First

Here in the islands, concerns revolving around ocean safety are of top priority. Each year, more than 60 individuals drown in Hawaii, making the state second in the nation for this deadly statistic.

What's more, military personnel account for approximately 4 percent of drownings annually, and 50 percent of all deaths occur in victims ages 35 years or younger.

"We want you to be safe in the ocean, and that means going to beaches where there are lifeguards present. It means watching the surf report, and it means setting your cell phone up to alert you of all types of weather," said Shelly Leslie, chief, Outdoor Recreation Center; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

"If you're coming from the Midwest, where you're landlocked, it's a whole new environment coming to Hawaii," Leslie added.

Other issues of high importance include overexposure to heat, humidity, vog and sun, too much of which can wreak major havoc on the body and your health.

"In dry heat, you sweat, but not profusely; in humid heat, you sweat profusely," Leslie explained. "Drink lots of water, and if you're not a plain-water person, add in some water flavoring. As long as you're drinking water, you're good."

To ensure everyone has a fun, safe summer, Leslie offered the following advice:

•Check the weather report before leaving the security of your home. Weather in Hawaii can change at the drop of a hat, so if the forecast calls for thunderstorms, even though the sky outside is clear, reconsider activities that may take hours to complete, such as hiking or kayaking.

•Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply frequently. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults between 25-29, with more new cases developing each year than in breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.

"Everybody can catch skin cancer. It doesn't matter what color your skin is or how young you are," said Leslie. "This is a really nasty disease, and you don't want to get it."

Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and when you are outdoors, wear a hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and special sun-protective clothing made with high ultraviolet protection (UPF).

•Don't underestimate your surroundings, or overestimate your own capabilities. Heed warning signs; they're posted for a reason. Only surf or swim at beaches where there is a lifeguard on duty, and only tackle approved hiking trails. Visit www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/ for trail maps and hiking brochures.

•Never drink and play. "Alcohol is proven to make you braver," Leslie said. "You lose your common sense and inhibitions about things. It's a poor choice when you mix alcohol with an activity that could kill you."

•Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to return home. Even better, take along a friend or make it a group activity. Having a companion will not only increase your safety, it'll up the fun factor, too!

"We really try to impress upon our Soldiers and family members to make sure they have a plan," Leslie said. "Make sure you have a plan and … leave the plan to show where you are going.

Also, make sure you have a charged cell phone that will alert you when there's a change in weather conditions.

"It's about being safe," she said, "and we take that very seriously."

Page last updated Wed July 30th, 2014 at 00:00